Relationships According to Facebook

Has anyone else noticed that Facebook’s relationship module is entirely centered around long-term/committed relationships?  I’ve been on Facebook since 2005, though I hate to admit it, and they have never had a “dating” option for relationship status.

You basically have three relationship status choices:

  • Single
  • Some form of committed relationship (“In a relationship,” “engaged,” “married,” “in a civil union,” “in a domestic partnership,” “it’s complicated,” or “in an open relationship”– that’s right, Facebook is okay with you being Polyamorous, but not with you choosing to date casually.)
  • Grieving a past relationship (“Divorced,” “separated,” “widowed,”– I would think people in these situations would rather just go with “single” or “it’s complicated” instead of laying out all out there, but hey, that’s me.)

I guess there are four choices, if you include the option to have no relationship status at all.   Guess which one mine is?

Anyhow, aside from the fact that I’m annoyed with the “separate, but equal” connotation of listing “in a civil union” or “in a domestic partnership” separately from “married” (though, I’m 99% certain this is about Facebook’s ability to further target their advertising), Facebook’s stance on what a relationship ought to be is quite clear.  Either you’re single, or you’re in a relationship.  Silly me, I always thought there was this whole courtship phase between the two.

But if that’s not enough, have you ever seen a friend change their relationship status?  Good. God.  Nowadays, if you tell Facebook that you’re in a relationship with someone else on Facebook, not only does it plaster this news to the whole world, but it includes a damned slideshow of the two people in a newly minted “relationship.”  And, yes, I’m putting “relationship” in quotes because half the time I find out a few days after the fact that the “relationship” was just Facebookery.  You know, two best friends saying they’re married for shits n’ giggles, or two people who met online a week ago decided to take it from Skype to Facebook, only to call it quits mere hours later.

It’s gotten to the point that even when my real life friends post about getting engaged, I feel a need to cross-check my sources before issuing any congratulations.

Ok, so clearly Mark Zuckerberg has some staunch opinions about relationships (makes sense to me, at least based on The Social Network, for whatever grains of truth may have survived Hollywood) and/or he’s clearly crafted this system in order to best disseminate and redistribute your personal information.   Oh well, no real surprises there.   But this has created a relationship-rich culture on Facebook.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, that many couples simply like to talk about their relationships in a public forum, but I swear I can’t get through three status updates without someone going on about their significant other.  “Bradley made me pancakes and bacon for dinner!  I have the best boyfriend EVERRRR!!! <3” or “Curled up with my girlfriend watching the game.  Best way to spend a Friday night ” or, my favorite, the vague status update obviously directed a significant other, “Your smile lights up my life.”

Again, maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe I just know a lot of folks in new relationships.  After all, relationships under a year old tend to still be in the honeymoon phase.  But I have a theory it’s more than that.   Frankly, I think Facebook is just reflecting (and reinforcing, thanks Zucks) a deep-seated attitude we have about relationships in the US (and elsewhere, I imagine)– if you don’t have a relationship, you need one, and if you don’t want one, you should.

Listen, I’m not going to sit here and argue that there aren’t many, many things which are made considerably easier by having a partner.  There are.  Most of the time, having a partner means you’re sharing life’s emotional and financial burdens with someone else.  But in no way do I take that to mean that having a partner is necessary or that a person is somehow lacking because they don’t have a partner.  Yes, humans are social creatures, but we all move at our own pace and recognize our relationships in different ways.  LGBTQ folk have been committing to each other for centuries without being part of the heterosexual institution of marriage.

But I digress.  My point is that this attitude that pushes the idea that you need a partner may be what drives this incessant need we apparently all have to talk about our relationships constantly, at least when we’re in one.   It’s like a badge of honor.  “See? I’m not broken! Somebody CAN love me!”  It saddens me that we need to prove that.  When did we all stop being worthy of love, just by virtue of being ourselves?

I will admit, though, that all the status updates and relationship changes do stick like a thorn in my side occasionally.  I may take pride in not needing a partner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want one from time to time.   I should know better than to surf Facebook after a bad day, but those “Look how perfect and amazing my relationship is, aren’t you jealous?!” statuses often feel like a hard kick in the pants.  And sometimes I cave, and find myself asking, “Can somebody love me?”

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6 thoughts on “Relationships According to Facebook

  1. […] have one of those days where it feels like Facebook is conspiring against […]

  2. anonymous says:

    Maybe those people are just really happy? Most people just post about how happy they are in life and being in your 20s and dating means being happy in a relationship. When you hated your job were you mad at other people for posting about how they loved theirs? Sorry, but your bitter is showing. Big time.

    • Possibly, but my understanding of happiness is such that if you ARE really, truly, genuinely happy, you don’t have a need to have said happiness constantly validated by whomever you’re friends with on Facebook. But maybe that’s just me.

  3. anonymous says:

    Except you’re the one writing a blog on the internet about being UNhappy. What’s the difference? Are you looking for validation too? Geez, just hide your friends then! This is stuff you’d see in real life as well. If you’re so happy with being single, why do you hate so hard on people that are happy not being?

  4. It’s interesting, and disappointing, to me that my blog comes across as being about “being unhappy.” It’s not.

    To me, this blog is about complex co-existence. Have you ever loved AND hated someone at the same time? It’s a bizarre feeling, but it’s part of the reality of life. We often have to accept that some things co-exist, despite not reconciling with one another.

    This is how I often feel about my singledom. Much of the time I am perfectly content to be single. Single, even, feels safer and more stable than pursuing a relationship. And yet, since we live in a culture that feels the need to remind us every 5 minutes that we’re not good enough all on our own, I’m regularly confronted by the fact that I’m single and that, to many, this is considered problematic. The conflict comes in when I can admit that there is a part of me that longs for companionship, but not just for the sake of not being single. So I try to talk about that conflict here.

    I don’t expect it to be an interesting topic of conversation to anyone besides me. I write because writing feels fantastic and it helps me organize my thoughts. I share/blog it on the off chance that someone else finds any of this relatable. I want that person to know it’s not just him/her/zir.

    I don’t hate anyone for being in a couple, I never have. What I hate is that people in couples almost never seem to know how lucky they are. This definitely gets under my skin. But I don’t hate the person/people. I definitely hate Facebook, though, and should really just stay far, far away from it.

  5. […] are two major problems I see with this concept: (1) Despite Facebook’s insistence that you’re either are, were or wish to be married, there’s actually a lot more nuance […]

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